The process of pursuing a personal injury claim is rarely as simple as presenting a statement of what happened, how you feel, and how much you expect to recover in damages.
People often come into cases with serious misconceptions, and these issues can lead to claims being lost entirely or settled on less than favorable terms. Here are several things that cases that were lost often had in common, and considerations to help you avoid making the same mistake.
The personal injury claim process is, at its core, a bureaucratic one. It entails filing paperwork with parties that are believed to be responsible for injuries. It involves working with the court to see that everything is filed according to the law and before expected deadlines. It frequently leads to back and forth negotiations.
At any step in this process, someone who isn’t a professional might be asked to sign paperwork they don’t fully understand. Such documents may include waiving rights to future claims, admissions of wrongdoing or recognitions of particular procedures. If you don’t have counsel, it may be difficult to determine whether a particular document should be signed.
Likewise, injury attorneys have experience dealing with the system. This fact in itself may deter insurance companies or responsible parties from trying to push their luck. It also may inspire greater confidence from the court in the claims you’re asserting.
Very few injury claims are ever seen as entirely one party’s fault. Generally speaking, some split in responsibility will be determined. If that division in responsibility arrives at the point where the claimant is determined to be more responsible than the defendant, then no award of damages will be rendered.
Even in a case where a defendant is held more accountable, the difference between 60 percent responsibility and 75 percent responsibility represents a notable increase in total compensation.
It’s easy to think of an injury claim as a chance to get big money or to bring the hammer down on those who deserve it. This mindset can prove to be a major mistake in approaching the claims process.
Fraudulent behavior can lead to the sweeping dismissal of a claim, counterclaims, and possibly criminal charges against claimants. Even the simple choice to say a back injury is worse on the pain scale than it really is can lead to an adverse outcome.
Thanks to the ubiquitous smartphone, there are now cameras everywhere. While it can be fun to document your life on social media, you should also be concerned about the possibility that your feeds or those of your friends will be used as evidence against your claim.
No one wants to be the person who got their case thrown out because they just had to sneak in a big summer trip before their settlement was finalized. Even one too many posts on Twitter noting how great you’re feeling may be presented as evidence that your pain and suffering isn’t real.
Lack of Documentation
It’s always prudent to be as thorough as possible in documenting everything following an incident that leaves you hurt. One of the first steps is to contact the police and file a report. This allows you to develop an official record of the incident. Likewise, the police are regularly seen as credible sources of information by the courts and insurance companies.
It’s also a good idea to begin documenting your experiences. Keeping a diary of each day following the incident will allow you to present a fuller picture of how your injuries might have altered your life. The inability to get out of bed without help several times a week, for example, may create a strong narrative that might improve the expectation of compensation.
Speculation and Misstatements
At some point, the insurance company is likely to put you in contact with a claims adjuster. Those who lose injury cases can get too chatty in these interactions. It’s not your place as a claimant to speculate why something happened or what someone’s motivations were. If you feel, for example, that you have grounds for pursuing compensation for malice, it’s wiser to ask your attorney about hiring an investigator than it is to blurt out such statements to an adjuster.
When in doubt, speak only to what you know. Better yet, decline to comment until you can have counsel present to advise you. It’s better to slow down the process out of an abundance of caution than to risk fouling it up by saying the wrong thing at the wrong time without a lawyer present to explain things to you.
As much as issues like fraud are discussed in the world of injury claims, one matter that often goes overlooked is the tendency of people to minimize trouble. There are a lot of reasons to play down an injury. Some people don’t want to have their toughness questioned. Others don’t want to stir things up with defendants who might be neighbors or the owners of businesses they frequent. This can lead an insurance company to reduce a claim or dismiss it outright.
It’s always unwise to minimize your claim. If you’re experiencing severe debilitation that may prevent you from leading a full life, you deserve appropriate compensation.
If you have been injured in an accident, you’re likely to have questions about the process of advancing a personal injury case. Don’t make the mistake of going at it alone and risking your potential to recover damages.
Adam S. Kutner & Associates can help you better prepare for the complex considerations of filing a personal injury case. Don’t risk losing your case on a technicality, or because of one of the reasons above. Call to schedule your free consultation today.